From a psychological perspective, food alters our mood through several pathways. Firstly, the idea of comfort food is not a myth; we can use good food as a coping mechanism when we are feeling stressed or bored to anchor us in the present while enjoying it.
Due to recent events and the limitations on some forms of entertainment, food has become even more powerful in being a tool of happiness and being an experience that is certain, the same every time.
When we look at the brain chemicals at play, our favorite takeaway can trigger dopamine release. Even just thinking about it can stimulate this, generating a craving that we can then satisfy. An elevated cortisol level can also induce a craving for foods that create a level of comfort, especially foods with higher levels of fat.
Our hunger hormones, can also impact our emotions and drive our eating behaviors. When we are hungry, and our blood sugar is low, we find it harder to manage our emotional regulation and balance, and this can lead to moments of becoming ‘hangry’.
What type of food provides the biggest boost to our mood? A recent study found that Indian foods provided the biggest boost. This is really not that surprising since researchers at UCLA identified that the vibrant spices in foods like turmeric can boost your mood. Daily consumption of a certain form of curcumin — the substance that gives Indian curry its bright color — improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss, according to the results of the study conducted by UCLA researchers. Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inﬂammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.
Sushi and cold-water fish like salmon is another good food to boost your mood. Fish is high in vitamin B12, which keeps the brain ‘happy’ and staves off bouts of depression, anxiety, and brain fog. Salmon, in particular, is rich in tryptophan – the precursor to serotonin, the feel-good chemical – so next time you opt for a sushi takeaway, consider ordering salmon rolls!
Many traditional foods in the standard American diet are not great in boosting your mood. Although pizza, burgers and fried chicken provide an immediate taste great experience the mood boosting benefits far below many others. The short term boost we get when eating that delivered pizza can disappear as fast as the delivery time.
Our bodies actually respond to different types of foods in different ways. And some foods, like those full of “bad” carbohydrates — like white breads and pasta and deep-fried treats — can leave us feeling bloated and down in the dumps. A poor mood can actually damage your immune system, slow down weight loss and lead to tension headaches. Luckily, there are others that can actually improve our moods.